Early Summer Spending

August 12, 2011

Maybe you’ve noticed that I haven’t written a post about my spending habits in a while. I haven’t necessarily been avoiding examining the monthly budget—between marathon training, a freelance assignment I couldn’t pass up, and wedding planning and festivities, I haven’t exactly had much time to sit down, compare spreadsheets, and write up an analysis.

Still, I have been a little bit scared of what I might discover. I feel like I’ve been unloading a lot of cash lately—on groceries, on consignment wedding dresses, on lunches with friends, and then this past month on pre-wedding pampering and various other stuff. And by “stuff” I mean the off-limits kind, like makeup and flowers. You remember how I made that wedding exception? I took a few liberties (just a few, though, really—more about this in another post).

It turns out I had nothing to fear. Over the last three months (i.e., May, June, and July), I have spent 18 percent less than I did during the same three months last year. My spending was up a tad (3 percent) in June because of a trip to Berkeley Springs, registration for a yoga class, a renter’s insurance payment, and a handful of restaurant meals. However, that month I also moved a four-digit amount to my savings account (the previous June, I didn’t put anything in savings), so all things considered, it was still a good month.

The biggest savings over the last three months, as compared with May, June, and July 2010, came in car expenses. I think I have mentioned before that I no longer have a monthly car payment, and so I’m now shelling out a lot less to keep the old Civic on the road. In July alone, my car expenses were a whopping 77 percent less than they had been the previous July—even with the spike in gas prices.

Spending in the “miscellaneous” category was also consistently about the same as or lower than it was during the early summer last year, thanks primarily to considerably lower credit card bills. Even in July, the month I bought that stuff for the wedding, my miscellaneous expenses were 45 percent less. Hooray!

The money management lessons I’m learning these days are certain to come in handy down the road. It just so happens that Channing and I visited the credit union this week to open a joint savings account, and I’m happy to report I actually have a decent amount of money to contribute to our collective total. In early summer 2010, I didn’t move any money to my savings account, but I did make a significant withdrawal in May. This year I have managed to put 20 percent of my income into savings every month (plus a little extra in June), and that 20 percent is about to get a little bit bigger—in July I got a promotion at work, which included a bump in salary.

I have a couple other good financial tidbits to share while I’m at it: First, because of the bounty of my CSA share (all-you-can-eat tomatoes this week!), I haven’t had to buy more than 20 bucks worth of groceries for the last two weeks. So, though my food expenses for May, June, and July 2011 were 8 percent less than in the same months of 2010, they are about to drop even more. In addition, because there’s so much food in the house, Channing and I are both spending less in restaurants.

Second, I just downgraded our household Netflix account to “unlimited streaming” only, which will cut my monthly Netflix bill in half. We’ll still get to enjoy Netflix’s vast collection of 90s sitcoms (Wings, anyone?), but minus the gas-guzzling means of delivery. OK, this move alone won’t free up much money for the downpayment on a new home, but for us, it’s a step toward streamlining our at-home entertainment budget. Next step: ditching the cable. Eliminating the hundreds of excess channels we currently have will appreciably lighten our financial load.

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